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Iceland!! (Part 1 of 3!)

I have been trying to figure out where this story starts since Emily told me she was ready to blog about Iceland. I can’t decide if it starts way back at theknot.com event where I met Emily for the first time and she exclaimed, “You’re Dani! You steal all my brides!” Or if it starts when Teri and I decided we were going to get lunch and Teri says we should see if Emily wants to come too. Or if it all just starts on our 3rd lunch date when the three of us talked about wanting to go somewhere because we have all these winter months off and we should do something. Yeah, it probably starts there. We were pretty serious about going somewhere. So, we made the plan to do it. We talked about our vacation styles and what is fun for us and whether or not we could all actually go. Teri, unfortunately, was not able to but I don’t think she is sad about it because her travels take her to beautiful tropical locations, which we are totally ok with as well! But cold places…not Teri’s forte. Right, Teri?

Fast forward to Emily saying, “what are your thoughts on Iceland? I have always wanted to go.” Well, most of you guys know me, it really doesn’t matter where we are going, as long as it is somewhere I haven’t been before, I’m usually excited. Mostly for the wow factor of being able to tell people I have been to blahblahblah. Iceland definitely had that wow feature and after looking into it more, there was so much to do and see!! Didn’t take much more convincing, we booked a trip to Iceland, for a ridiculously low amount of money for what we got I think. We went in October, mostly because we wanted to experience Iceland not in the complete dark and because we are nuts for taking a trip in the middle of busy season, but we both had this week off so we went for it! The week before the trip Emily goes off to Canada with her husband to see his family, should have gotten stitches (we’ll see if Emily mentions that story in her post) and leaves me to plan our itinerary based on us chatting one day about what was important for us to see in Iceland. I think I did a pretty good job.

The cool thing about traveling with Emily this first time (first because I am sure there will be more) was that I didn’t know Emily all that well. I mean, I knew the basics – what she does, where she is from, her fav music, that she is always cold – but there was a lot left to learn about Emily. Starting with her germaphobia which I know she will likely only briefly mention in her blog post, but this being my blog post, I might make fun of it a bit more. (Don’t worry, she will likely make fun of me for not being able to snorkel). Not much to do with her germaphobia, but this girl doesn’t not like to hang out at airports whereas if I am traveling, I will gladly spend time at the airport, I love to people watch! And it is the best place for people watching! She is right about crappy airport food and all that jazz, but give me a bottled water and cheez itz and we are good to go. Much to her dismay, we get to the airport probably 2.5 hours before our flight and since it is a red eye, there are zero people at the airport, we breezed through check in and then security and Emily gives me the “well, what now?” face. Rewind to security though which is the first time I learned about her germaphobia…she had to take her shoes off. I was wearing my Uggs. Does anyone wear socks with their uggs? Am I the only one who doesn’t? My feet would get way too sweaty if I wore socks and Uggs. I had zero problem taking my shoes off and walking on the sparkling floor of the airport security area. Emily on the other hand has her socks on and doesn’t take her shoes off until the last possible second. She worries about athlete’s foot way too much and cleans the tops of her aluminum cans before drinking from them….which I have admittedly started doing after seeing all the nastiness she has gotten off of them. Aside from the germaphobia, this girl is like traveling with myself. We woke up at the same time most days, we alternated showering first without even discussing it, we were hungry at the same times, we both know how to just go with the flow if things don’t go as planned. It was pretty awesome.

Flight there was great! 5ish hours, movies, no food though unless we paid for it, Icelandic people! But the Icelandic people have their faults. I have just sat down in my aisle seat, directly across the aisle from Emily (perfect for us! two aisle seats!) and the lady to my right asks if I want to sit by the window. I said no thanks, I prefer the aisle. She then proceeds to warn me that her son who is sitting by the window will be using the bathroom at least 5 times during this flight. I wanted to laugh because of the ridiculousness of what she was saying but didn’t, I just said feel free to wake me up if you need to get out. Which he did, but only 3 times. Apparently, we learned later, Icelandic people like their space. This lady who was next to me needed a whole row to herself. I can’t tell you how many times her ipod headphones were flung on my face, or she stole the arm rest, or she decided I must be cold too and put her blanket on my arm….it wasn’t pleasant and I didn’t get much sleep after all. She made up for it towards the end when we were descending and actually made small talk with me about Iceland which is what we could have done the whole flight. She ended up making me not want to punch any Icelandic people after all.

When we get to the airport, Emily had rented a car. This car to be exact.

We worried our luggage wouldn’t even fit, it was so small. And Emily, hasn’t driven stick in years. The good news is that one swing around the parking lot and she was good to go. In part 3 I will definitely be leaving you with some Iceland advice if you ever travel there but I will tell you now, you will feel safer in a car that is bigger than this. This is strictly what they put tourists in and we all look like idiots driving on some of these snowy roads in a car the size of most lawn mowers in the US. Anyway, it is dark when we land so it is really hard to see what the heck we are looking at as we drove to the hotel. I purchased the Europe GPS maps so Clancy (my GPS, australian accent trying to say icelandic words…love) could always tell us where to go even though, to be honest, the roads are way easy there. I knew from the lady on the airplane that when she brought people to Iceland for the first time and were leaving the airport they asked if they were on the moon because the terrain was like nothing they had ever seen before. I could tell it was rocky but that was about it just because it was so dark.

We stayed at the Reykjavik Residence Hotel which I would highly recommend. It is right downtown, walking distance to anything in Reykjavik and it is really, really nice. So nice, I would stay there again in a heartbeat. After checking in, we both crashed for about 4 hours before deciding to shower and go explore. Our first stop was finding a grocery store – if you see a pink pig and a sign that says Bonus, you are at a grocery store. We bought a bunch of random things that ended up being the perfect amount for a week long trip. We ate at least one meal out a day but breakfast and lunch and snacks were taken care of. I was happy to know that Emily and I were similar in that way especially after hearing how expensive Iceland is. Maybe it is just living in a very inflated area in the US, but there prices on things was really not that much different than here, so don’t worry too much about that at all if you ever go and are from the DC metro area. After grabbing food for the rest of the week, we made our way down to the water to this dive center. I had been in touch with this super nice gal named Hannah at http://www.dive.is/ because we wanted to schedule a snorkeling adventure and she promised us that she makes the best hot chocolate in all of Iceland – that ended up being definitely true. We made it down there, and booked a trip for the next day – we were going to snorkel between North America and Europe’s tectonic plates andddddd because Hannah convinced us, we were also going caving. More on that in a second. Lots to read today, huh? After a nice 45 minute chat with Hannah over amazing hot chocolate about her and Iceland and tons of other things, we ventured down along the shore to take some photos. We made a deal on this trip that if we ever wanted to take a picture of something, we were literally just going to pull over and do just that. Iceland has some of the most ridiculously gorgeous scenery I have ever seen in my life so the rule was a good one. We soaked up the last little bit of sun before dinner.


I had made a list of all the places that people recommend eating at while in Iceland from what I had read online and from friends of ours that had gone awhile back. The first night seemed like a good night to go to Icelandic Fish and Chips. Very delicious, but Emily had just spent a week eating the freshest fish in her life and therefore wasn’t all that impressed. I did however take a picture. Everything was lightly fried and you got to pick your sauces for dipping. Another thing we loved about Iceland, is that there are pitchers of water cups out in every restaurant for you to help yourself. They have some of the cleanest drinking water in the world and it can be drank straight from the tap with no concern. I actually think it has a crazy amount of minerals in it because my nails and hair grew a ton when we were there.

We called it a night after that and headed back to the hotel to get some shut eye for our adventurous day the next day. But not after some good old boggle playing and chicktionary. I sincerely loved finding out that Emily likes words as much as me! Boggle is legit my favorite game!

The next day, we wake up early because who knows what amazing things we are going to want to stop and take pictures of on the way to the dive spot. The one place we did stop that day was this whole area on the side of the road with stacked rocks. We wondered what all this stacked rock crap meant because we saw them everywhere. Luckily, Emily found this website when we got home and it made a lot of sense.

We drove to Thingvellir National Park (by the way, everything is a National Park there, the main roads just lead into them and then out again and then in again and out again…it’s crazy) and then met our group at the visitor center which Clancy (my trusty old GPS that I took to Iceland with me) found because of the coordinates. Sometimes that is how they do things there, by coordinates. So cool! We followed everyone to the dive site and got into our dry suits. Yes dry suits, which was more like a space suit. I felt like an astronaut. You put on what I would describe as a jump suit that you would see a sky diver wear, and then you put on a legit wet suit on top. You have clothes on underneath all of this as well. You also have a wet cap and gloves – these both fill with water but your body heat will warm the water. The wet cap – ha, that was a real challenge to get on and off. They call it giving birth to your head but it doesn’t cover all of your face. Your face….well, your face just freezes 5 seconds after you go into the water so you don’t have to worry about that anymore. It was pretty awesome being explained all of this especially when snorkeling is not really my cup of tea. I gag easily, I have weird breathing patterns, my biggest fear is drowning, I don’t like tight things around my neck. I’m just weird. I was surprising myself with the fact that I was doing this at all. You walk down this little ladder with your flippers on and go straight into the water. You float very easily in your dry suits. Of course, I am not good at this anyway, I am near panic after being in the water for .5 seconds because my mask is filling up…snorkeling is really not for me. But the water was so clear, it is absolutely stunning. When I focused my breathing enough to look, it was crazy deep, and so narrow, you could literally touch North America and Europe at the same time. It was pretty awesome. You could see bubbles coming up from the fissure and getting caught in the algae forming little balloon type shapes. I was super excited to be done when we were done. I think caving was way more my thing.

We had some time after giving birth to our heads to wander around and take pictures while everyone else stripped out of their gear. We even got hot chocolate and Hobnobs. So delicious.

The caving experience was nuts. When they handed us helmets, we knew it was going to be an adventure. We were essentially walking in a lava tube. David, one of our guides, and clearly a drama major from his dramatic pauses and story telling, was very knowledgeable about these types of caves and I actually thought it was pretty fascinating. Lava tubes are a type of cave formed when lava flow develops a continuous and hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. Lava usually leaves a volcano in channels. These channels tend to stay very hot as their surroundings cool. This means they slowly develop walls around them as the surrounding lava cools andas the channel melts its way deeper. These channels can get deep enough to crust over, forming a tube that keeps the lava molten and serves as a conduit for the flowing lava. These types of lava tubes tend to be closer to the lava eruption point which made sense because here we are in front of a volcano. 🙂

All I could keep thinking is how did anyone ever find this? How does anyone know it is there??? So crazy to me. There is nothing around but moss covered lava rocks. Which we photographed for way too long after ditching the rest of the caving group. Going into the cave, it is legit just a giant hole in the ground, and you have to travel down rocks to get into it. We quickly learned why we wore helmets. I am positive I would be brain dead without one. It is pitch black in the cave so you can’t tell aside from looking at the person in front of you if you need to duck or not. And it doesn’t help when the person in front of you is shorter than you. Once we finished up, we played in moss fields.

Tour guide David.

Because we had already had an adventurous day, we decided to continue on the adventure and be adventurous eaters! We went to Islenski Barinn for dinner. Our waiter was awesome. So awesome we left him a tip and you don’t tip in Iceland. We decided we would try the traditional Icelandic feast. The major things to point out about this menu is the puffin and the whale. I ate both. Puffin is super hard to describe. Yes, no need to google, puffin is that super cute bird you are thinking of. And it’s meat is strange. Like a wet beef jerky. It is very dark, that same texture but raw tasting. Whale…meh, tasted like pork? It wasn’t all that great and I have no plans to eat it in the future. We ended the night with a rock paper scissors to see who had to do a second shot of brennivin brought to us by our server. I lost.

That’s all for days 1 and 2! Check back tomorrow for part 2 of 3 and head over to Emily’s blog to get her take on it all!!

  • December 18, 2012 - 10:29 am

    Emily - You are hysterical. So glad I got to go to Iceland with you!

  • December 18, 2012 - 10:31 am

    Brea - I love that you three are so close! This trip sounds like it was completely amazing and I’m ready to go! 😛

  • December 18, 2012 - 10:56 am

    Serena Severtson - Oh my goodness, Dani. This looks totally incredible and I’m super jealous of the awesomeness that occurred. Looking forward to reading chapters 2 & 3 of your fun trip! 🙂

  • December 18, 2012 - 12:51 pm

    Jenn Cafferty-Davis - GOR.GEOUS

    Holy cow.

    That water – so clear!!

    And no tipping? Explain.

  • December 18, 2012 - 8:31 pm

    teri pozniak // tPoz - right you are – waaaay too cold for me! 😉
    I absolutely LOVE that first landscape pic!!
    SO cool that you could touch north america+europe at the same time!
    looks like it was an amazing trip, regardless of the temperature (and all the activity! haha!)

  • December 19, 2012 - 10:55 am

    Kendra - You ate a puffin and a whale. Holy crap.

    THESE PICTURES ARE SO COOL!!!

    Please tell me you have pictures of puffins (alive and looking precious).

  • December 20, 2012 - 3:01 pm

    Iceland! (Part 3 of 3) » Dani Leigh Photography - […] your convenience in case you need to catch up: Part 1 and Part […]

  • December 20, 2012 - 3:02 pm

    Iceland! (Part 2 of 3!) » Dani Leigh Photography - […] Catch up with Part 1!! […]

  • June 19, 2013 - 12:41 pm

    Iceland! (Part 1) | Emily Chastain Photography - […] spit it out politely I would have. Ughhhh not my favorite. You can read more about our trip on Dani’s blog. Stay tuned! Parts Two and Three up […]

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